In case you missed it, the greatest magic trick in history occurred right before your very eyes.
According to scientists, the surface of the earth is 196,940,400 square miles. But thanks for our friends on a relatively tiny patch of this real estate better known as the Silicon Valley, our planet was effectively shrunk to approximately 3 inches.
Yes, I’m talking about the tiny glass screen surface of our so-called smart phones.
Our friends who occupy this very small patch of land near San Francisco (25.79 miles to be exact) are changing our lives forever. As for better or worse, that is still out for the jury to decide.
Recently I was in a restaurant when I noticed a family of four sitting down for dinner. Nice, traditional – almost Norman Rockwellian – family sharing a nearby booth. But what stood out to me was how not a word was spoken among them. No one looked at one another but instead each was fixated on the tiny screen of their phones. No words were being exchanged, no one was asking about how each other’s day went. I believe a man in a clown suit juggling fire balls could’ve walked by not one of them would’ve noticed.
Everyday I see increasing evidence of our big, beautiful world being pushed aside for a digitized version occupying a few inches of real estate located in the palm of our hand.
Granted I’m from a generation of rabbit ears, rotary dial telephones, and taping a penny on the arm of a record player to keep it from skipping. Yes, I am that old.
But I’ve always embraced technology – almost mesmerized by how my life could be enhanced or improved by the flood of advances. But this latest development – or evolution – does give me pause. It is not the tool, but rather how we are choosing to incorporate the technology into our daily lives.
Everywhere I go – be it walking along a beautiful coastline or standing in line at a local grocery store, everyone seems to be focusing their attention on the world located at the end of their arm. Personally, I like to meet new people and strike up conversations. People are like browsing though a used bookstore – sometimes all you need to do is pick up a book and flip through the pages to discover a gem. People are like that as well. You simply never know what you’ll learn from others.
Which brings me back to my thoughts on living our lives at arm’s length – so to speak.
Are our lives being increasingly consumed by a digital version tailored to our taste and interest? Are we, instead of discovering the world one person (or experience) at time, now finding ourselves in one determined by an algorithm based on our past interests or behaviors? Where is that gem – the one with a dusty, torn book cover — for us to discover if we keep looking at ourselves in a digital mirror?
Living life to its fullest requires effort. You must get out each and every day actively seeking out new people, experiences, and knowledge. The architecture of our new world — the one we are building in the palm of our hands — could very well be forcing us to live life at arm’s length.
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